Friday, April 30, 2010

Finding Chuck Norris

This isn't really enlightening but it is kind of interesting.

1. Go to
2. In the search bar type "Find Chuck Norris" then click the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
3. When the search results come up, read them carefully.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks to Jay for showing me this!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: Love Must Be Tough

Book Review: Love Must Be Tough: New Hope For Marriages in Crisis by James Dobson

When I told a co-worker recently that I had just read this book, they were amazed. "That's quite the oldy" they said with just a touch of book snobishness. Is it just me or do we expect Christian books to age quickly and gracelessly? Anyway, this is only the second book I've ever ready by Dobson but it somewhat of a classic in marriage counseling circles. So I wondered. . . could this old girl offer anything new for me? I was curious to find out.

Love Must Be Tough turned out to be a very helpful book which I will be recommending to many of my clients who are in tough situations. It goes nicely with Boundaries and Divorce Busting, yet is different enough from each of them to be valuable all on its own. Dobson's book is for those spouses who have bent over backwards to make their partner feel loved and accepted but the only reward they've received has been anger, indifference, infidelity, or abuse. While many people in such reactions adopt a mostly passive role, Dobson actually encourages creating a crisis, arguing that it often the best chance to save the marriage. By being tough and standing up for oneself (and the relationship) you not only protect yourself from further harm but actually make yourself more attractive to your spouse (being a pushover who just "takes it" is not attractive). Whether you spouse is cheating on you, addicted, angry, or abusive the best chance you have is to avoid the natural tendency to panic and then appease a person who is disrespecting you. Or as Dobson says:

"Nothing destroys a relationship more quickly then for a person to beg for mercy."

If you know someone who is stuck in a terrible relationship and trying to appease an abusive or indifferent spouse then this is a book for them to strongly consider reading. The action of standing up for oneself and forcing a crisis is a big decision and for many they need the encouragement and discernment of someone outside the situation (like a friend, minister, or counselor) to assist them. But in almost all cases it is the only real way to give things a chance. This book is a great introduction and inspiration to add tough love to one's repetoire of relational tools. I'd rate it 4.4 out of 5 ninja stars.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Or do not.
There is no try.
- Yoda

Warning: This post may land on you harshly as I may crush one of your most cherished defense mechanisms so if you aren't at a good place to be challenged - skip this post! If not, steel thyself and continue reading.

I was listening to a tape series on solution focused counselling a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. The speaker worked with angry adolescents and had a very practical approach. One of the things that I remembered (and which we talked about in my small group last night) was the word "try." This speaker said that the words we use are very important. For instance, when we say the word 'but' what we really are saying is "whatever I said previous to 'but" isn't what I believe to be true, what I say after 'but' is what I really think is true (I catch myself doing this all the time by the way).

The same is very true of the word "try." According to this therapist, when we say "I tried" what we really mean is that "I chose not to _______." We use 'try' to justify to ourselves or to others that we did our best but were overcome by circumstances, our lack of self control, the futility of challenging fate, etc. It's a word we use to try to tell people we want to change but aren't. The truth is that we didn't really "try," we choose not to do the things we tell ourselves we want to do. When I tell people "I'm trying to get to bed at a decent time but haven't been successful" what I really mean is "I chose not to go to bed at a decent time." When we tell people we are trying to spend more time with our kids what we are really saying is "I'm choosing not to spend more time with our kids."

At our small group we were discussing this interesting concept and I said "When we say 'I am trying to lose weight' what we really mean is we are choosing not to do what it takes to lose weight.' " At this point I was warned to be careful! Here is where we get sensitive. "Mark," you may say, "You don't know how hard it is to ______, I really am trying." It is true, what you may be "trying" to do may be extremely difficult and sometimes we can't change certain things in our lives. I simply point out to you that when you use the word 'try' you probably aren't being honest with yourself. We use "try" as a means to protect ourselves from the truth. The harsh reality is that we all have free will to choose our own destiny or accept where we are at. The behaviors we choose (or don't choose) determine that reality.

Alas, the truth is the truth no matter how we try and phrase it. If you are 'trying' to stop a bad habit (or addiction), lose excess weight, be a better spouse, not get mad at your kids, plant a garden, etc and it's not working then perhaps it's time to admit the truth. To say you 'tried' means you chose not to do what it actually takes. Personally I find this truth to be freeing. I can keep 'trying' to stop a bad habit (even for several years as I look for compassion for others) or choose the difficult new behaviors necessary to rid myself of it. You can too.

This is fairly radical thinking. What do you think of it?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

100 Year Old Woman's First Computer is an iPad

Since the release of the iPad (in the US anyway - the Canadian release isn't until the end of May), we've seen all sorts of unlikely computer users playing with the new device. Now a new video of a 100-year-old woman using her iPad though is both heartwarming and inspiring.

100-year-old Virginia suffers from glaucoma, so the iPad's zoomable screen is ideal for her to read books (she's read 2 already) and write limericks (she's composed 12). Her children and grandchildren realized that this was cool enough to share on the internet and posted a video of the centenarian iPad fan to YouTube, including one of Virginia's limericks. I'm not sure what impressed me more; the fact that someone who is 100 could find Apple's iPad that easy to use or the fact that someone who is 100 is still composing poetry! Enjoy.

Here is a quick note from Virginia's family:
We, Virginia’s family, wish to say this video was made within minutes of her receiving her iPad. ? She quickly caught on to how to read and write on it, activities which were impossible before. She cannot read large print books any longer as her glaucoma prevents this. Glasses are useless. She loves to read and is a avid poet, now writing many many limericks for fun. She does not bend over the iPad, as you see in this video, but now puts it on several pillows.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Losing and Winning At The Same Time

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people."
-Spencer Johnson

I want to talk about a professional golfer for a minute. No, not that golfer. I'm talking about a lesser known guy by the name of Brian Davis. Davis has been in the trenches of the professional golf world without winning a major PGA tour event and I wouldn't be surprised if you had never heard of him.

Luck was with Davis on April 18th when for the first time he was within spitting distance of winning his first ever PGA tour event. Up against Jim Furyk, they were both down to the wire on the final hole. Davis's approach shot on the first hole of the playoff bounced off the green and fell into some weeds. When he tried to punch the ball up onto the green, his club may have grazed a stray weed on his backswing.

Unfortunately hitting any material around your ball during your backswing constitutes a violation of the rule against moving loose impediments, and is an immediate two-stroke penalty. And in a playoff situation, that means, in effect, game over.

Amazingly no one saw what happened except one man: Davis. And so he actually called the violation on himself. "It was one of those things - I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye," Davis said. "And I thought we’d check on TV, and indeed there was movement." Immediately after the shot, Davis called over a rules official, who checked the video replays and confirmed the movement -- but movement which was only visible in slow-motion.

This guy is my hero.

As soon as the replays confirmed the violation, Davis conceded the victory to Jim Furyk, who was somewhat stunned -- but, make no mistake, grateful for the win. "To have the tournament come down that way is definitely not the way I wanted to win," Furyk said. "It’s obviously a tough loss for him and I respect and admire what he did." Indeed, Davis said afterwards that he was sure of the violation and wouldn't have been able to live with himself if it wasn't.

Such integrity. In an age where people are almost expected to cheat, it is a breath of fresh air. For six years the Englishman turned Florida resident has been trying to win one on this side of the pond. He could have pretended he never saw the club graze the reed, and taken the chance no one else saw it either. But he didn't. The truth was more important then then the fame and money. I think we can all learn from this inspiring act of . . . honesty. Well done Brian Davis, my hat is off to you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taxed Out

Oh I hate doing taxes. For the past few days I've started doing them and then when the anxiety gets to me, I put them aside. But tomorrow I have to go see my accountant so I've run out of procrastinating room. Time to buckle down.

The reason I hate them so much is because of the complexity of the task. Many people are details oriented but I'm not. I am a "big picture person" and proud of it. Trying to figure out what receipts I need to save and having to divide up my expenses between me and Jobina is just intolerable to me. Add in investments, the fact that I'm somewhat self employed and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Yuck.

There are a few interesting things though about going through all your receipts; it's like a detailed journey through your entire last year. The Bible says that where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. Not wanting to take that too out of context, yet it appears that my heart was at Subway and Jobina's was at Starbucks (I was completely shocked by the number of Starbuck's receipts - she must be going there every other day!). Of course I was pleased to see where our charitable giving was as well. Another thing I noticed was how much money was for receipts for "romantic things" like nights out, dinner, movies, flowers, retreats etc. - this is a number I'd like to increase more for next year. Also, apparently I like our vehicle because we put WAY too much money into that (more then half it's value!).

How is your tax prep going? Do you procrastinate like me or have you had it done for months?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Houses and Homes

I like houses. A lot actually. I like to look at them, visit them, buy them, and invest in them. The only thing I don't like about them is working on them!

The other day I was invited to the home of one of the couples who I am doing premarital counselling with. They invited me over for brunch and to show me the house they had just bought. Them buying this house was exciting, not just because of the investment value (something we definitely talked about) but because they used the policy of the joint agreement in a really cool way that was big deal in their relationship.

The area of Winnipeg they bought in a bit sketchier and the house they bought will need a lot of work. But as I stepped into the home and was met by their smiling, proud, and excited faces a profound thought hit me: " The value of a home is not how nice the building is and where it is located. A home derives it's value from the quality of the relationships of those who live inside." In other words the relationships are the home's greatest asset.

Sometimes I get house envy or pick apart all the things that are missing in mine or need to be done. The imperfections of the structure. But I remembered that day that the most important thing isn't those things at all - the question is, is the house a home? A place where people are loved, spend time with each other, and do life together? I think I want to focus more on these things.

Monday, April 19, 2010

That Crazy Sennacherib

This past Sunday morning I was laying in bed reading my son Riker a Bible story. It was from 2 Chronicles 32, the account of how God saved Judah from Sennacherib of Assyria and his army. In the story Sennarcherib taunts the city of Jerusalem and it's king (Hezekiah) as he prepares to lay siege to the city. It's a great story, God vs the huge ego (and army) of Sennacherib. I love the author's commentary in verse 19 "These officers (the Assyrians who were taunting the people on the walls) talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands." Subtle foreshadowing and theological commentary!

God of course protects his people. "King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he (Sennarchib) withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword."

I explained to my son what the word annihilated meant. Then I asked Riker if he knew what that last part meant, "some of his sons cut him down with the sword." He was unsure. I said that Sennacherib's own sons killed him! I speculated about some of the reasons - maybe the sons were embarrassed by their father's defeat in Jerusalem or maybe they were impatient to get to the throne.

After a very long pause pause, Riker looked at me and said "Dad, don't worry, I won't kill you." I told him thank you and felt reassured. My throne (and life) are safe.

As amusing as this was Jobina told me that later on Riker was looking up and reading the story again his own Bible and for that I am grateful and encouraged. I may end up being a disaster as a father, but hopefully some day he'll tell his friend "Well, at least I remember him reading Bible stories to me." That wouldn't be the worst legacy to have.

(By the way, if you want to have fun with people during a sword drill, call out "Hezekiah 3:32." I tell you I never get tired of that one.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Experiments on Kids

Researchers have recently "discovered" two new things which I found interesting:

1. Spanking makes kids more aggressive.
2. Bribing kids with cash helps them perform better in school.

(click on each for the details)

Agree that this is true? Go science!

Communication Difficulties

I was listening to the a marriage counselor on the radio this morning. He said "If you don't communicate, you're marriage WILL die, so take time every day to connect with your spouse." I reflected on this for while and decided that it is true. I've seen a lot of marriages go a long time without it, but eventually the marriage will die if it doesn't get meaningful conversation. It's only a matter of time. Of course not every marriage that has died ends in divorce, but the marriage is dead none the same. What gives me hope is seeing marriages that have been in this state for a long time suddenly revived - back from the dead!

A few things that get in the way of communication:

1. resentment/unforgiveness/bitterness
2. anger
3. busyness and impossible schedules
4. poor communication and listening skills
5. forgetting that marriage is a friendship
6. a lack of making communication a priority

Communication is something that is never finished and you never get caught up in. It is like water to a plant - without it, the plant will immediately start to wilt. Whatever gets in the way of your communication, as much as is within your power, you need to deal with it. Yes your spouse has a role in things, but it's too easy to just blame them for a lack of communication in your marriage. You can't control them, you can only control yourself. If you don't know how to help the situation don't give up - get some help. Buy a book, book a vacation, go on retreat, change your schedule, see a counselor - do whatever is necessary. Think of this as a friendly reminder - you're marriage depends on it!

As I posted recently, it's amazing how far away your spouse can feel from you when you aren't communicating. Sometimes one spouse will completely ignore the other's attempt to communicate but usually it becomes something that both spouses are colluding in and enabling. The sooner this distance is addressed, the easier it is. And don't give up after only trying one way to help things. Be patient and keep experimenting with new approaches. Go to others to get encouragement and support. And good luck.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire

Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire (Canadian Edition) by David Bach

David Bach's book is short, you can read it in about two hours and put his ideas into practice in about the same amount of time. Think of it as "The Wealthy Barber - Light." But for a moment let me digress. Compare the following three situations:

1. Imagine that Billy put $3000 a year ($250 a month) into an investment/savings account for the next 5 years (ages 15-20) and then just let that money sit and get 10% a year of compounding interest until the age of 65.

2. Imagine that Susan at age 19 put $3000 a year ($250 a month) into an investment/savings account for the next 8 years (ages 19-26) and then just let that money sit and get 10% a year of compounding interest until the age of 65.

3. Imagine that at age 27 Kim put $3000 a year ($250 a month) into a savings/investment account for the next 39 years (ages 27 to 65) and then just let that money sit and get 10% a year of compounding interest until the age of 65.

So, the question is, who would have more at the end?

Just so you know Billy invests a total of $15000, Susan invests $24,000, and Kim invests a whopping $110,000. OK, enough suspense, here is what they would each make by the time they were 65:

Billy at 65 (after 5 years of investing $3000 a year, starting at age 15) - $1,615,363.40
Sally at 65 (after 8 years of investing $3000 a year, starting at age 19) - $1,552,739.35
Kim at 65 (after 39 years of investing $3000 a year, starting at age 27) - $1,324,777.67

Incredibly, Billy invested $102,000 less then Kim and has $290,585.73 more! This is the power of investing regularly each month and letting the miracle of compound interest slowly grow your investment. Where you invest is important but more so is the fact that you start as soon as you can. I've blogged before about the power of paying yourself first, putting aside a portion of your income that goes directly into an investments that enjoys the power of compound interest. I think these numbers prove the wisdom of it. The lesson for today: START SAVING/INVESTING EARLY.

This is the message behind David Bach's Automatic Millionaire. Bach takes the idea of paying yourself one step further in order to beat human nature: make everything automatic. Set automatic withdrawals into your RRSP or mutual funds (so that you can set it and forget about it). He also suggests automating your tithing, paying off your home (and doing it early), and saving for a rainy day fund. Once these things are set up automatically you won't be so tempted to spend money elsewhere. I agree with Bach that for most of us, going automatic is the surest way to insure that you will save/invest regularly. He says that since most of can't hold to our budgets (if we are even trying to) that automatic withdrawals to appropriate places is key. The money is taken out automatically and eventually you will automatically become a millionaire. Bach shares the story of couple who taught him to do this and it is very inspiring. I highly recommend this simple book for anyone wanting to improve their financial education but wanting something easy to implement and lacking in complexity. I rate it 4 out of 5 ninja stars.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last night Jobina and I talked.

I mean, really talked.

This might not seem amazing to you, but it seems like in the past few weeks we haven't really, well, connected much with each other. I mean we've been talking to each other, but not really talking about anything beyond the practicalities of the moment. Or maybe another way to say it would be to say that we've haven't really shared our real selves with each other. You know, the deep stuff. And I for one was missing it.

You see, after you have a baby (especially if you have other kids) it feels like if you are not careful you can kind of lose your spouse. I don't mean geographically lose them but emotionally. You're so busy with kids stuff that you can lose the heart of your spouse in your weariness and the general madness that becomes your life. Last night Jobina and I decided that in spite of sleep deprivation, laziness, and the looming slight awkwardness it was time. We sat and talked to each other and shared thoughts, feelings, fears, and questions. Suddenly I felt like we were not just parents but soulmates again. And it was good. Jobina initiated it - thanks babe. It reminded me again about how fragile our relationships are and how they need constant care. And how easy it is for a distance between two people to be solved. Thanks honey.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Underestimating The Threat

As a relationship counsellor I work with alot of couples in crisis. People who seem to have it all together and suddenly everything seems to hit the fan. Then either one or both people are left wondering "What happened? Where did this come from?" Maybe it is infidelity, an addiction, abuse, or something else. I feel for such people, their pain is intense and their hurt is immense. If you have experienced any of these things in a relationship you know the kind of pain I am talking about.

While sometimes people are completely blindsided to relationship crises, most of the time there is a feeling that something is wrong beforehand. Something just seems "off" or there is nagging sense of something not being right. It seems to me that almost every couple lives with a certain amount of "taking for granted" of their marriage and their spouse and they ignore the reality that even the best marriages are somewhat fragile. It only takes something little to completely put a relationship on the rocks. It could be something like:

-A wife starts a warm friendship with a male co-worker or neighbor.
-A husband starts drinking a little more then usual.
-A wife catches her husband on a "smutty" internet site.
-A husband starts getting verbally cruel or pushes his wife during an argument.
-A spouse realizes that they have felt emotionally or sexually distant from their mate for some time.

The tendency of most of us is to simply to "let it go," either not mentioning anything or failing to assert oneself with one's spouse over a boundary violation. "Maybe it's not that serious," we say to ourselves, willing ourselves to trust that it was a onetime indiscretion. It's so much easier not to say anything, not to look distrusting, not to appear oversensitive or overcautious. But is precisely these times that spouses need to address each other and do the hard work of checking in on these things. Fears must be mastered and difficult questions asked. Requests for change (and the consequences if they don't) must be voiced. For all of these things can be threats to one's marriage and to not address them is to court disaster.

When a spouse isn't challenged on their behavior, their human nature will usually cause them to do even more of what they are doing - either openly or in secret. The Law Of Boundaries says that "whatever you put up with, you will keep on getting it - and more of it!" We need to always be vigilant in our marriage relationships and carefully and sensitively address any possible threats to it. I'm not advocating paranoia, interrogations, or fear but I am advocating vigilance and assertiveness. Every marriage will have threats introduced to it over its lifespan. Is there anything you need to address in your relationship? What's holding you back? And have you seen what happens when people ignore the signs that something is not quite right in their marriage? Just curious.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wanted: I Would Like A Free House

I saw this on Kijiji Winnipeg (a free online classified's site) today:

Wanted: I would like a free house

If anyone would like to give me a free house I'd greatly appreciate it. I'd prefer one that doesn't require immediate maintenance. Serious replies only please.

I love it! I often tell Jobina that you never know what you will get until you ask! I love this person's audacity, they know what they want and even though it's outlandish, perhaps someone out there will answer. Best thing I saw all day and I just wanted to share it with others.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The King and His Wise Friend

I read this recently and was reminded to choose to think positively:

An old story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, “This is good!” To which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. “You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!” “What do you mean, ‘This is good’? How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?” His friend responded: “If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you!”

Great story and it definitely relates to me. When you are a counselor, you live with the fact that some people make appointments with you and then cancel late or don't show up. I have talked to doctors, dentists, optometrists and it is all the same. Because it is unethical to double book (at least I think so), it ends up costing you time and money. Especially as a beginning therapist this can get you down. Now I choose to think "this is good" whenever I get a no show or late cancellation. I try to use that time, focusing on the positives that I wouldn't have if my appointment had happened instead of on the things I lost because it didn't (money, the inconvenience of my time, having to reschedule). How about you? Are there times you need to choose to see the positive instead of getting stuck on the negative? It's not that the negative doesn't exist, it certainly does, and sometimes it is inevitable that we will get stuck there. However getting stuck in it won't help make you life one iota better then it is now. But focusing on the positive almost certainly will. . .